An electrician is a tradesperson specializing in electrical wiring of buildings, stationary machines and related equipment. Electricians may be employed in the installation of new electrical components or the maintenance and repair of existing electrical infrastructure. Electricians may also specialize in wiring ships, airplanes, other mobile platforms and also data cable.
Electricians are divided into two primary categories:
Linemen, who work on electric utility company distribution systems at higher voltages
Wiremen, who work with the lower voltages utilized inside buildings.
Wiremen are generally trained in one of five primary specialties: commercial, residential, light industrial, industrial, and low-voltage wiring, more commonly known as Voice-Data-Video, or VDV. Other sub-specialties such as control wiring and fire-alarm may be performed by specialists trained in the devices being installed or by inside wiremen.
Electricians are trained to one of three levels:
Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Electrician.
Apprentices in the US and Canada are working to learn the electrical trade. They generally take several hundred hours of classroom instruction and are contracted to follow apprenticeship standards for a period of between three and six years, during which time they are paid as a percentage of the Journeyman's pay.
Journeymen are electricians who have completed their Apprenticeship and who have been found by the local, State or National licensing body to be competent in the electrical trade.
Master Electricians have performed well in the trade for a period of time, often seven to ten years and have passed an exam to demonstrate superior knowledge of the National Electrical Code or NEC.
Service electricians are tasked to respond to requests for isolated repairs and upgrades. They have considerable skills troubleshooting wiring problems, installing wiring in existing buildings and making repairs. Construction electricians primarily focus on larger projects, such as installing all new electrical system for an entire building, or upgrading an entire floor of an office building as part of a remodeling process. Other specialty areas are marine electricians, research electricians and hospital electricians. "Electrician" is also used as the name of a role in stagecraft, where electricians are tasked primarily with hanging, focusing and operating stage lighting.
Electricians use a range of hand and power tools and instruments.
Two of the tools commonly used by electricians. The fish tape is used to pull conductors through conduits or sometimes to pull conductors through hollow walls. The conduit bender is used to make accurate bends and offsets in electrical conduit.
Some of the more common tools are:
Pipe and tube bender
Lineman's pliers: Heavy-duty pliers for general use in cutting, bending, crimping and pulling wire.
Diagonal pliers (also known as side cutters or Dikes): Pliers consisting of cutting blades for use on smaller gauge wires but sometimes also used as a gripping tool for removal of nails and staples.
Needle-nose pliers: Pliers with a long, tapered gripping nose of various size, with or without cutters, generally smaller and for finer work (including very small tools used in electronics wiring).
Wire strippers: Pliers like tool available in many sizes and designs featuring special blades to cut and strip wire insulation while leaving the conductor wire intact and without nicks. Some wire strippers include cable strippers among their multiple functions for removing the outer cable jacket.
Cable cutters: Highly leveraged pliers for cutting larger cable.
Rotosplit: A brand-name tool designed to assist in breaking the spiral jacket of metallic-jacketed cable (MC cable).
Multi-meter: An instrument for electrical measurement with multiple functions. It is available as analog or digital display. Common features include: voltage, resistance and current. Some models offer additional functions.
Step-bit: A metal-cutting drill bit with stepped-diameter cutting edges to enable convenient drilling holes in preset increments in stamped/rolled metal up to about 1.6 mm(1/16 inch) thick.; for example, to create custom knock-outs in a breaker panel or junction box.
Cord, rope or fish tape. Used to manipulate cables and wires through cavities. The fishing tool is pushed, dropped, or shot into the installed raceway, stud-bay or joist-bay of a finished wall or in a floor or ceiling. Then the wire or cable is attached and pulled back.
Crimping tools: Used to apply terminals or splices. These may be hand or hydraulic powered. Some hand tools have ratchets to insure proper pressure. Hydraulic units achieve cold welding, even for aluminum "locomotive" [many fine strands] cable.
Insulation resistance tester: Commonly referred to as a Megger. Insulation testers apply several hundred to several thousand volts to cables and equipment to determine the insulation resistance value.
Knockout punch: For punching holes into sheet metal to run wires or conduit.
Other general-use tools with applications in electric power wiring include screwdrivers, hammers, reciprocating saws, drywall saws, metal punches, flashlights, chisels, adjustable slip-joint pliers and drills.
Ground fault indicator tester
In addition to the workplace hazards generally faced by industrial workers, electricians are also particularly exposed to injury by electricity. An electrician may experience electric shock due to direct contact with energized circuit conductors or due to stray voltage caused by faults in a system. An electric arc exposes eyes and skin to hazardous amounts of heat and light. Faulty switch gear may cause an arc flash incident with a resultant blast. Electricians are trained to work safely and take many measures to minimize the danger of injury. Lockout and tagout procedures are used to make sure that circuits are proven to be de-energized before work is done. Limits of approach to energized equipment protect against arc flash exposure; specially designed flash-resistant clothing provides additional protection; grounding (earthing) clamps and chains are used on line conductors to provide a visible assurance that a conductor is de-energized. Personal protective equipment provides electrical insulation as well as protection from mechanical impact; gloves have insulating rubber liners, work boots and hard hats are specially rated to provide protection from shock. If a system cannot be de-energized, insulated tools and special live-line training are used; even high-voltage transmission lines can be repaired while energized when necessary.
Working conditions for electricians vary by specialization. Generally an electrician's work is physically demanding such as climbing ladders and lifting tools and supplies. Occasionally an electrician must work in a cramped space or on scaffolding and may frequently be bending, squatting or kneeling, to make connections in awkward locations. Construction electricians may spend much of their days in outdoor or semi-outdoor noisy and dirty work sites. Industrial electricians may be exposed to the heat, dust and noise of an industrial plant. Power systems electricians may be called to work in all kinds of adverse weather to make emergency repairs.